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Russel Northe MLA:
New Business Penalties and Rules raise concern

Strong penalties and rules that now apply for booking arrangements in Regional Victoria.

By Portal Admin - 25th October 2020 - Back to News

Member for Morwell Russell Northe yesterday in State Parliament raised serious concerns on behalf of many accommodation and hospitality businesses regarding the Governments recently announced strong penalties and rules that now apply for booking arrangements in Regional Victoria.

The Government have implemented new measures in order to protect Regional Victorians from the higher risks of COVID-19 in metropolitan Melbourne and this includes the need for regional businesses to refuse bookings for customers from Stage 4 areas.

"Whilst I agree the measures are well intentioned, Ive been hearing from many local businesses who have found this weeks new business rules around photo ID checking prior to booking, are not feasible in many circumstances" Mr Northe began.

Last Sunday the Premier announced new, stronger requirements for regional Victorian businesses would be implemented that very evening;

"From midnight tonight, this requirement will be made even stronger, with businesses who consciously fail to check their customers are not from metropolitan Melbourne facing fines of up to $9,913".

"Whilst I understand that keeping Regional Victorians safe is of paramount importance, there has obviously been little consultation with how this change impacts upon businesses and in a very unrealistic timeline" said Mr Northe.

"In fact, many hospitality and accommodation businesses are unsure if they can even comply with these new requirements and havent been afforded the time to work out their new practices" Mr Northe continued.

The "Industry Restart Guidelines" for the Accommodation and for Hospitality industries, states that;
"You must ask for photo ID e.g. driver license or proof of age card, which confirms their address is not metropolitan Melbourne or alternatively have them complete a written form that confirms the same".
"Many organisations were already recording visitors address or postcode under previous guidelines, however, requiring them to now sight a customers ID prior to actually booking accommodation or a meal, is proving problematic" Mr Northe said.

Mr Northe also said that it was not easy for businesses or their staff to determine which towns or postcodes actually fall within the Stage 4 areas. In some cases, junior staff were taking these administrative details and may not have vast knowledge of postcodes and locations.

"This information is not readily available and finding such detail can take considerable time and effort. This is not always able to be captured over the phone, and many online booking platforms dont have this facility" Mr Northe said.

"Businesses are wanting to and trying their best to do the right thing and abide by the rules, but these new requirements are making it difficult from a financial and administrative perspective".

"Its almost like the onus has been shifted from the Government and individual persons to make the right decisions and subsequently been lumped on the business community. In the first instance, individuals particularly from metropolitan Melbourne should be following the rules yet ultimately its Regional businesses who are the ones at risk of receiving a massive penalty" Mr Northe lamented.

"Its incumbent on the Government to ensure their ring of steel is adequately resourced both on our road and public transport network, to deter persons from Melbourne coming into our region against the rules. Its incumbent upon individuals who do come to Gippsland within the rules to ultimately, do the right thing" Mr Northe said.

Mr Northe said he was also aware of local persons who do not possess photo ID and who were subsequently unable to make a booking at a local establishment. Its understandable that businesses have taken such action, as the failure to comply elicits a massive penalty.

"So, its not only businesses that having difficulty grappling with these rapid changes but customers as well" Mr Northe continued.

"Our local hospitality and accommodation businesses have already been operating in a limited capacity and the concern is that even Regional Victorians trying to visit and stay at other parts of Regional Victoria will become an issue, as photo ID is required and many booking options dont cater for such provisions".

"Given the uncertainty in Melbourne and beyond, there have been countless cancelled bookings and refunds on deposits returned, and now businesses under these new rules will be unable to take a booking from someone in a lockdown area, even if its for 12 months down the track" Mr Northe stated.

"These sectors are crucial to our local economy, and many were hopeful that the upcoming long weekends would bring some relief, yet that remains to be seen".

"To be fair, I do believe that there are some unintended consequences with these measures. It is imperative that the Government recognises this now and turns its attention as to how they can better support and assist local businesses who have the threat of massive fines hanging over their head - even as they are trying their utmost to abide by the rules" Mr Northe concluded.


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